MADISON - Entering the Wisconsin basketball program as a highly touted prospect out of Iowa, freshman forward Jarrod Uthoff never imagined the physicality he would encounter.
That, in essence, is why Iowa's Mr. Basketball decided to dedicate his first season in Madison by redshirting with hopes of gaining the strengths needed to withstand the rigors of a bruising Big Ten schedule.
Once Tuesday's practice concluded, BadgerBlitz.com spent some time to catch up with Uthoff. The following is a question and answer with the four-star prospect.
Well, you're imitating Robbie Hummel this week, huh?
Uthoff: It's going really well. I like to just be able to, I mean, he plays….well, I'm not going to say that. It's just nice playing his position because he's so good.
You get the opportunity to mimic their guy. Obviously he's the star over there so does that give you free range to do a lot of stuff out there when you're in practice?
Uthoff: Yeah, for sure. You get a lot of free range. I can take whatever shots I want. It's pretty nice.
As a basketball player what else can you ask for?
Uthoff: I know, right (laughing)?
Just talk about your redshirt year. Have you added weight or bulked up at all this year? How are you improving and how is your game improving now even though you're not playing in games?
Uthoff: I've gotten stronger. I've gotten better at battling down in the post and rebounding and what not. It's just being stronger that has really helped me.
Have you added weight at all?
Uthoff: Yeah. I'm about 208 pounds right now. I came in before the summer at 190 pounds.
Oh wow, about 18 pounds. Did you need to do that in your opinion?
Uthoff: Yeah. Just to be able to compete out here, especially with the Big Ten competition because it's so physical.
So when you feel yourself battling for rebounds is that what you're hoping for? Does that make it all worth it when you're busting your tail in the weight room? Just to see that success out there?
Uthoff: Definitely. And even just getting pushed around in general on the basketball court. I've really gotten better because I can hold my ground better.
Watching you in early November when practice first started it seemed like you were very confident and playing pretty well. I was kind of surprised when you redshirted. Did you ever think you were going to redshirt? And are you happy with the decision now that you're halfway through the season?
Uthoff: You know, I wasn't originally going to redshirt. Then I thought about when we get into Big Ten season we were going to be coming up against really physical guys. I needed to be stronger. They take advantage of my weakness.
Did you struggle with your decision? I know you said you didn't think you were going to redshirt, but were there sleepless nights when you were thinking about it?
Uthoff: Not exactly sleepless nights but it was a really tough decision. I really wanted to play. It's hard this year not being able to play. I just wanted to get out there and be on the court with the guys. In the end it's going to benefit the team and myself my fifth year compared to my freshman year.
A lot of guys when they redshirt say they treat practices like games. Do you have that kind of mindset?
Uthoff: Yeah. Especially getting the first team ready for the game.
I was talking a little bit to George Marshall about it and he said it's kind of tough on game days. He said he's very happy with his decision, but when gameday comes around and you have the chance to suit up and be playing you're wearing sweatpants.
Uthoff: It's really tough, just like George said. I imagine myself out there and I'm just dying to get out there. That's the tough part about it, but in the end we're getting better.
Just talk a little bit about the other side of being a student athlete. Did your first semester go pretty well? Did you have good grades? How did finals week go and is it a little bit of a change from high school?
Uthoff: It's a definite change. I did pretty well. I should have done better, but I did all right.
Do you have any goals for the rest of your redshirt year?
Uthoff: My goal by next season is to get to 220 pounds and get a lot stronger.
Have you added quickness at all? Have you noticed if you're quickness out there? Does that even matter? Is that a big key for your game?
Uthoff: The biggest thing difference that I've noticed is just the strength. Quickness, I don't think it's changed that much. I haven't really noticed any more quickness.
It's not weird because I know how this program operates, but watching you guys in practice today I noticed a lot of smiling. You guys seem pretty loose out there. With a three game losing streak happening to a program that doesn't see three-game losing streaks that often you would think you guys would be tight…
Uthoff: You've got to stay loose. If you get all bottled up you're just going to play worse. If you think about it too much you're just going to be in a worse situation.
Is that mindset something that comes from Bo Ryan or the players above you? Or a little bit of both?
Uthoff: They never told me that. It's just what I think. I think you just have to stay loose.
One final question. When you're playing on the scout team do you take it personally, maybe not personally because you're obviously all one team, but just in the sense that maybe you're not doing things as well as you could be to prepare them?
Uthoff: Yeah, for sure. I'm part of the team and I take losses just as hard as anyone else.